This Date In Royals History–1980 Edition: May 23

After a players’ strike was averted several hours past the strike deadline and in the early hours of the morning, the Royals had to scramble to make it to Los Angeles for their series against the California Angels. You’d never know the team had been traveling the same day they played, as they scored 10 runs in the first four innings to take a 13-9 win on a Friday night at Anaheim Stadium.

Because of the late news about the new collective bargaining agreement, some players had to scramble just to make the team flight, which was held back to Friday morning rather than leaving Kansas City after Thursday night’s game. Outfielder Clint Hurdle found out at 6:30 am he needed to pack and get to the stadium for a bus ride to the airport. Pitcher Marty Pattin had begun driving to his home in Charleston, Illinois, after the Thursday night game. Somewhere near St. Louis, he heard about the settlement on the radio and had to turn around and drive back to Kansas City. Outfielder Steve Braun wasn’t that lucky. He had gone fishing early in the morning and couldn’t be reached until later in the day. He managed to get a flight and arrived at the park just before gametime.

And if that wasn’t enough drama, catcher Darrell Porter began having chest pains as the team prepared to board their flight to California. Porter would miss all of the three game series as he was hospitalized for observation, although tests revealed nothing abnormal.

Despite all that, it seemed like the Angels were the team not ready to play, as they committed two errors in the first inning and starter Frank Tanana issued two bases-loaded walks in the inning. With one out, U.L. Washington singled and stole second. Frank White reached on an error on shortstop Todd Cruz. With two outs, Cruz committed another error, this one on a John Wathan grounder. With the bases now full, Tanana walked Willie Aikens and Dave Chalk before Hurdle’s single drove in two more runs.

Tanana then got tagged for four hits to start the second inning, only recording one out before being pulled from the game. Willie Wilson led off with a single. With one out, White singled. George Brett drove in one run with a single and Wathan doubled for two more. With the score 7-0, reliever Chris Knapp came in and ended the inning without further damage.

However, Knapp hit two batters in the third, sandwiching a Rusty Torres single as Kansas City loaded the bases with no outs. Washington’s sacrifice fly brought in one run, but a short fly ball and a grounder ended the inning.

The Royals picked up four singles and a walk in the fourth, but a double play took some of the wind out of their sails. Still, Wilson’s single drove in two runs to push the lead to 10-2.

Royals starter Dennis Leonard took advantage of the big lead, working seven innings. He allowed 10 hits but didn’t walk anyone. He picked up three strikeouts. His line suffered a bit from giving up four hits and two runs in his final inning, even though the game was well in hand by then. 

California did score twice in the third, with Carney Lansford driving in both runs with a triple. Joe Rudi slammed a solo home run in the fourth, but Kansas City still held a 10-3 lead.

Hurdle answered that with a two-run home run in the sixth, his fourth of the season. That put the Royals ahead 12-3. KC tacked on one more run in the ninth, with Brett’s double scoring Torres.

The Angels made the score seem closer with two runs in each of the seventh, eighth, and ninth innings. In the eighth, Rudi hit his second home run of the game, this one off Pattin and good for two runs. And in the ninth, Tom Donohue led off with a home run off reliever Gary Christenson. After a triple and a Lansford RBI single, Christenson got one out and Dan Quisenberry entered the game to get the final two outs, although he didn’t qualify for the save.

With the win and Chicago’s loss in Seattle, the Royals moved into first place for the first time since they were 3-1 on April 13. With their record now 22-16, they held a half-game lead on the White Sox. Of course, no one knew it at the time, but the Royals would not relinquish their division lead the rest of the way.

George Brett watch: 2-6 with 2 RBIs. Season stats: .260/.347/.481

Box score and play-by-play:

1980 news alert: Just a few days after The Empire Strikes Back hit theaters, another classic movie was released, at least in a limited fashion. The Shining, directed by Stanley Kubrick and starring Jack Nicholson, began horrifying people in two cities. The rest of the United States would have to wait three weeks to learn that “all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.”

Today’s birthdays: None

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